Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marrakesh Express.

So...we are leaving for our first big adventure tomorrow. Marrakech, Morocco here we come! I am really excited. I am pretty sure it will be nothing like anywhere I have ever been, which is great. It will also be in the 80s while we are there, which I have to say, will be a nice change. No doubt we will freeze when we come back to Tampere. 

Nothing too exciting to update on from here. We are definitely getting into the routine of things more now. My classes have been enjoyable and the reading for my book exams is manageable so far. Everyone in the building is becoming good friends now, so that's really fun. We have been having a lot of movie nights in the main building because no one ever has anything to do on weeknights. I am pushing for Good Will Hunting tonight. 

Today the weather was actually quite nice and sunny. We went to school and ate a boring lunch and then had to print out stuff for our trip and our 'request for absentee ballot' forms. Hopefully those will go through okay and we will get our ballots in plenty of time. Our friend Isaac from London watched Sarah Palin's interview on ABC and let's just say he was pretty shocked and baffled. That's all I will say. 

Next time I post will probably be from Marrakesh! (If I can use a computer)

Just another reminder of how expensive things are here. Yes, that is the price. In Euros. For nail polish.

The colors are starting to change here and we happened upon these lovely trees on our walk to the bus stop this morning. (Okay, it was more like early afternoon.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Not good.

Just had a little chit-chat with Orbitz about changing my plane ticket home. See, originally my parents were going to come over to Paris or something for Christmas this year and then I was going to come back to Tampere and fly home on December 28th. Problem is...financial crisis hits and boom, my parents can no longer afford to come. I had come to terms with the fact that I would just fly home a week earlier and spend Christmas at home. No problem, I know that by then I will probably be exhausted and actually appreciate just being home.

So today I called up orbitz to see if I could change my ticket. Well, because I have paper tickets ( I don't know why I do), they can't change it over the phone. I have to go to the Scandinavian Airlines desk at the Tampere airport (the most inefficient, understaffed airport I have ever been to) to get it changed. Now, I don't know how they calculate these things, but I just looked up a one-way ticket home on December 21st and it was 1,800 dollars. NOT GOOD. If they take my original ticket, cut the price in half and replace that fare with the one-way fare and then add on the ticket change fee, it could cost me 1,400 dollars EXTRA just to fly home. :(

Now, if luck is on my side, that will not be how they calculate it. Because at that price, my parents could either decide that maybe it would be worth it to come instead of throw away 1,400 dollars. If not, it looks like I might have to stay here for Christmas, or go travel somewhere by myself or something. Does anyone know anyone else who is studying abroad and staying somewhere for Christmas? Eek. This is not good. It seems silly to throw away that much money. Hopefully it will not be that much money.

Nonetheless, I am a bit exasperated right now.

In other news, we leave for Marrakech on Wednesday, yay!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday outing.

I was going a little stir crazy yesterday from being cooped up in the house with my cold. Meg found this waffle place/coffee shop online that was supposedly really good, so we decided to go there this morning (well, almost afternoon) and get some waffles! The place was tiny and a little out of the way, but quite adorable. They have all kinds of waffles. They have your normal sweet waffles with berries and fruit, and they also have quite a selection of savory waffles (the taco waffle looked particularly intriguing), and even an ice cream waffle! They are also about 3-5 euros, which is a pretty good deal for any meal around here. I got an apple/nectarine waffle and Meg got one with jam and goat cheese. They were both delicious.

After that, we decided we would go get coffee and try to get some studying done. We went to a coffee shop in the main square that was big, but still cozy. I delved into my environmental studies book called "Comfort, Cleanliness, Convenience." Haha. It's definitely a bit dense and wordy, but it's digestible and only about 200 pages so it shouldn't be too bad. I discovered that they did in fact have Chai Latt├ęs, so I splurged and spent three euros on one to keep my reading going. Surprisingly, it was amazingly delicious! I hadn't really seen them anywhere else so I figured they weren't very popular, which sometimes equals not good. But to the contrary it was quite tasty.

Now we are back home and I accidently took a little nap earlier. Whoops. I start my women's studies "Gender in Politics" seminar tomorrow. It is four hours long. Hopefully they will find a miraculous way to make that not seem like an eternity. I think I will need to pack a sandwich.

Also, I found out yesterday that I am going to be a Noisemaker for Asthmatic Kitty Records. They sent out a letter a few weeks ago asking for volunteers who might want to apply, so I did. I think it is basically an organized group of promotional volunteers for the record label. It should be fun! So, I will be a good volunteer and give them a plug on here. Go see their website! Sufjan Stevens is my favorite artist on their label and they also have a lot of music by their artists that you can download for free!

In closing, I hope that all of you saw this skit on SNL last night. Of course, I have no TV, so I only saw it on YouTube, but I think you should watch it. Tina Fey with that accent! Kills me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stuck inside with the stuffy nose blues.

I haven't updated in a while. This is mostly due to the fact that I have not done anything very exciting in the last week because I sadly came down with a cold on Wednesday. So...because I don't have any class from Wednesday until Monday, I have mostly been camped out here on my bed drinking the chicken noodle soup that miraculously arrived from my mother in the nick of time and watching old episodes of 30Rock on the internet. If you have never seen that show (by miss Tina Fey), you should. It's funny. I plan to finish the first season this evening and perhaps start the second tomorrow if I am still cooped up. That picture up there is our school, by the way.

The group has started to have spontaneous movie nights because it seems that, like us, many of them have excess free time to use up. Sunday we watched Evan Almighty (meh) and Hot Fuzz. I had heard really good things about Hot Fuzz, but I was sleepy and I didn't really get the humor so I left and went to bed. Tuesday, per my suggestion, we watched Breach. I have seen it three times now and I think it might have to go into my favorite movies now. Everyone else loved it, too. I'm surprised it never got nominated for anything. Wednesday we went to a residents meeting for Peltolammi, which was...interesting. However, there were free snacks. 

Other than that, I have been here in the apartment trying to amuse myself by watching whatever shows I can find online and keeping up with the political scene. I watched Sarah Palin avoid all kinds of questions in her interview with Charles Gibson. She was definitely well coached, but she never gave a direct answer and kept calling Charles "Charlie," as if calling him that would make her more well-liked, which it does not. Again, she tried to bolster her 'foreign policy credentials' by saying that in some parts of Alaska you can actually see Russia! OMG! Clearly that makes her an expert on foreign relations. I'm pretty sure the part she can see is an icy wasteland with a few deer moseying around. She has also never even met a head-of-state, not a good sign. Of course, Sarah Palin thought that probably most VP picks have had the same answer. Yeah, right. I don't know if this thing should even be called an interview. It was basically her spewing off whatever the McCain camp told her to say no matter what question she was actually asked. When Gibson asked her what she thought of the Bush Doctrine, she clearly had no idea what he was talking about. She must have such amazing foreign policy experience!

McCain was also on The View yesterday and he was torn to shreds. Justifiably so. It was evident that everyone but Elisabeth Hasselbeck was annoyed with his inability to answer questions. He tried to pull the "change" crap that the GOP has adopted in the past week, saying that Sarah Palin was going to reform "all of Washington!" When Barbara Walters inquired as to how she might do that, he stuttered that by golly she was a reformer! It's the same crap as always and I can't believe half the country is falling for it. I don't know how the GOP thinks they can get away with spouting "CHANGE!" when they have absolutely nothing to say that they won't do exactly what Bush has done to our country. It's preposterous. I also stumbled upon a video of Joe Biden on Meet The Press, and what a difference. I didn't know much about him when he was announced as Obama's VP pick, but the more I see of him, the more I understand why he was chosen. He has enormous experience, which (contrary to what the GOP is saying) IS a good thing. He is an expert of foreign policy and he also, to put it quite simply, knows what he's talking about. I have seen him in quite a few live campaign stops as well, and when he is asked a question, no matter what it's about, he is right there, on point. He never hesitates and he has specific answers for every person's individual question. 

Anyway, enough politics for now. I have been on a Bob Dylan binge lately. I think it's comforting over here, to have such americana playing in the speakers. :) I am also really enjoying Bon Iver. If you haven't heard of them, you should check them out. It's unfortunate that the only concerts that come to Finland are heavy metal. Boo.

We went to the lake at daytime last weekend, so here are some photos for you!

Pretty, huh?

Friday, September 5, 2008

"The Peltolammin Eminem everybody!"

The last few days have been interesting, or entertaining at least. I finally got my new power adapter for my computer, and on the way back Meg suggested that we take the 71b bus because it must go the same route as the 71, which stops by our apartment. Much to our dismay, the bus was headed to what we could best describe as...the middle of nowhere. I asked Meg to show me her shame face for putting us there in the rain. 

We did make it to a market in the middle of town that randomly appeared in the square. We saw a llama! We also bought seven licorice/candy rope things from a very nice vendor who kindly attempted to translate all of the flavors for us. 

Wednesday night was Veronika's 24th birthday, so she had everyone over to her place and made like 6 homemade pizzas that were delicious. We got to meet a bunch of other germans who were really fun. We also dealt with questions from the well-meaning Chinese guy who thinks he knows a lot about America even though he has never been. I was wearing my navy blue nail polish and he asked if I was gothic, haha. He's an interesting one. 

Yesterday we hung around the house and eventually made it to the grocery store and bought some real food. Still no cheese though, far too expensive. We at least got some chicken and fish fingers and real pasta sauce. Ahhh the wonders of foreign cuisine. And we got a little basil plant! So exciting. We were planning on watching the Sex & the City movie and calling it a night, but the whole gang came to knock on our door and see if we wanted to come out. Well, of course! 

We walked over to the pub that is in Peltolammi (the lovely place with 7 apartment buildings, a vet?, a grocery store and two pubs) and had an interesting experience. Our plan was to just hang out and get a drink. But of course, it was Karaoke night! After hearing some delightfully terrible Finnish renditions of english songs, we decided someone from our group better step up. Elise and Veronika attempted to sing "Mambo No. 5," of which they could really only sing the chorus. Nonetheless, it certainly got the locals in the bar going. Joe, taking himself seriously, decided to do Eminem's "Lose Yourself," which was quite good although maybe not as entertaining. The locals were quite impressed with his rapping and he gained a few drunk Finnish fans. Around 11:30, Meg and I were getting ready to help out our new French friend Basil with "Hey Jude," but unfortunately they were closing and we were too late. 

We made our way down to the nearby lake that Meg and I had not yet discovered. It was a beautiful, although dark, walk and we stopped at a merry-go-round and swingset briefly before heading down to the dock. The lake is huge and really quite stunning, even in the dark. We all sat at the end of the dock and Veronika served everyone little glasses of wine as Elise pulled out and lit some tiny little votive candles (Oh, Elise). Not long after, Elise decided she might go swimming. Mind you, this is at about 12:30 am and I would bet that the water is about 45 degrees. Nonetheless, she, Nelly and Veronika stripped down to their skivvies and jumped in the lake! I was sitting there in a sweatshirt and a scarf and there they were, swimming in the lake like it was no big deal. Eventually Gurkan and Basil followed (Basil stripped all the way down because...he is french). 

On the way back, we got sucked in by the playground again and basically all took turns on the merry-go-round until most of us felt slightly nauseous. I haven't been on one of those things in at least ten years, but I have to say that it was pretty darn fun. I am so glad that we have so many fun people around to make things exciting even when our living area is not innately fun itself. Sadly, my camera died as I was attempting to document the Karaoke part of the evening, but Elise did take some pictures so credit goes to her on these. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Let's learn about America!

Today both Meg and I officially had our first class. We are taking a course called "U.S. Presidential Elections." This may seem a bit selfish to take this instead of the Survival Finnish course, but so be it. Our professor is actually from the U.S. although all of her family is from Finland. This helps us because we do not have to suffer through an indecipherable Finnish accent. She is also quite witty and I think she will keep the class light and entertaining. This is also good because we also found out today that the class, which goes the entire semester, is only worth a measly 2 UofO credits (not worth much).

The course will be an overview of the process of American elections and will look at past elections, but will also cover the current one. I am really excited to be a part of the discussion and see how other people from around the world look at the election. There are a lot of international students in the class so I think that will make for an interesting class. I think it will also be a good way to make sure that we are keeping up with all of the election news. She mentioned that there might be an evening "Pizza and Politics" discussion for people who want to come. This sounds fun and involves free pizza, which I have to say I have been craving ever since we arrived in Finland. She also said as an aside that they are working on a collaboration with Harvard in which our class would get to speak to the candidates on the day of the election???? So cool. Hopefully it will happen. I am certainly crossing my fingers.

Isaac from London, Elise from France, and Patrick from England/Denmark/Czech Republic are also taking the class, so it will be interesting to be able to have discussions with them about what's going on back in our home. Isaac said that people in England really aren't very interested in politics or elections, which surprised me a bit. Their system of government obviously works differently and maybe not so much responsibility rests on a single individual, but in America...oh boy. Even if people are 'not really into politics' or whatever, I feel like most people I talk to have pretty strong opinions and political ideals. I don't think it is this way everywhere, but I feel like the person who I support or even the party that I support says a lot about me as a person. Of course this is a complete generalization, but your party says a lot about how you see the world and who you are as a person.

I won't vent about everything I would like to, but I have to say that I find McCain's VP choice of Sarah Palin very strange and irresponsible. Even if I were a Republican, I wouldn't want her running the country if something happened. She adds nothing to McCain's many weaknesses and I just don't see it. The fact that this race is so close right now is rather disturbing to me. Where are the 79% of people who are displeased with the country right now. Are 29% of those people really going to vote for John McCain? Where is the logic in that? Let's just hope the country gets it right this time. If McCain wins I will most certainly cry.

If there is one year that I would really like to be able to sit down after class and watch two hours of CNN, this would be it. Sadly, that is not going to happen here. Looks like I will have to stick to the web. I don't know if I mentioned it last time, but my power adapter for my computer broke, so that has been a tad detrimental to my computer-related entertainment. Hence the lack of photos lately. Hopefully that will be fixed soon.

Nothing else too exciting here. We officially booked our trip to Morocco, so I am really excited for that. Meg's mother was terribly nervous and scared for us when we told her we had actually booked the trip, but I think she is doing better now. I'm glad my mom knows that there is nothing wrong with going to Morocco as long as you are careful, just like everywhere else. I give credit to Molly for paving the way on that one.

I am definitely missing the comforts of home a little bit. The food situation is pretty dire in our apartment because we are trying to save money so we can use it for traveling. I refuse to pay 9 dollars for a tiny block of Parmesan cheese or 6 dollars for some tortilla chips. So far it's still noodles, meatballs, and sandwiches. Yesterday we got some grapes, apples, carrots, and tea to spice things up a bit. I am also kind of sad that I will be missing out on the beginning of school festivities at UofO. Obviously I am having a great experience over here and everything, but at times I wish I could go back to Eugene and see all my friends there and pick up where we left off last June. Everything I miss now will definitely make me more appreciative when I come home!

Well, I have to look up some independent study classes and figure out what we are going to do now for our four-day weekend. I hope we come up with something. :)